The equation for England is simple – win their second group match against New Zealand tomorrow and they are through to the semi-finals of the Champions Trophy.
It would offer Eoin Morgan’s team, who started their campaign with an eight-wicket win against Bangladesh at The Oval last Thursday, tangible reward for the progress they have made in one-day cricket over the past two years.
However, it would also offer some degree of redemption given their last meeting against New Zealand at a major 50-over tournament, in Wellington in February 2015, saw England slump to one of the most humiliating defeats in World Cup history.
Back then a rampant New Zealand led by Brendon McCullum were swift and ruthless in their destruction of England.
After bowling Morgan’s team out for 123, the tournament co-hosts chased down their target in 12.2 overs. McCullum led the way with 77 from 25 balls. Steven Finn, called into England’s squad on Sunday as an injury replacement for Chris Woakes, saw his two overs go for an eye-watering 49 runs.
Morgan, speaking on the eve of this match, quite bluntly termed it as “men against boys”.
This England team have grown up in the intervening months. So laying that Wellington ghost to rest, and securing a place in the last four in the process, would be an important step forward.
“Certainly they were one of the favourites going in to the tournament and proved that against us in Wellington,” said Morgan. “It was sort of men against boys. But I think it’s completely different now, two years down the line. We’ve got a completely new team, pretty much.”
The contrast between now and then is stark. While it was raining sixes in Wellington, the build-up to this match has been dominated by poor weather in South Wales that has forced both teams to train indoors over the past two days.
England, as Morgan stated, are also a completely different proposition from the timid team who were embarrassed on the world stage.
Crucially, for New Zealand, McCullum has retired and while the Black Caps dominated their rain-affected no result against Australia at Edgbaston last Friday they are no longer the force they were.
“I think a lot of it has to do with confidence,” said Morgan. “You only build confidence by producing performances and winning games. So we come into this tournament full of confidence and knowing that the conditions we’re playing in, we’ve played in before and have had success.
“I think the dominant factor in New Zealand was that they had that confidence at the time, whereas we didn’t have it.”
New Zealand were also the first opponents to experience the revamped England following that World Cup during the first ODI series of the 2015 summer. In many ways they were also the inspiration for a new, aggressive approach to one-day cricket that Morgan and his players have embraced over the past two years.
“We have very similar characteristics and values as a side,” said Morgan.
It means this match could be close and exciting as long as the Welsh weather – forecast to be dry but windy – behaves.
The fact the pitch at Sophia Gardens will have been under cover for most of the 72 hours before the match will impact selection for England.
The short boundaries are also likely to see just one spinner selected – meaning Adil Rashid is likely to miss out again after he was dropped for the tournament opener against Bangladesh.
Finn has a realistic chance of coming into the XI either as a replacement for Woakes or Jake Ball, who had a torrid time at The Oval last Thursday.
If England keep faith in Ball, who conceded 82 runs in exchange for one wicket against Bangladesh, then it becomes a straight fight between Finn and the left-arm seamer David Willey for the final place in the team.
One piece of good news for England is it appears likely that Ben Stokes will be able to bowl ten overs if needed following the knee injury that overshadowed his build-up to the tournament.
The all-rounder bowled seven against Bangladesh and Morgan said: “He came through it again the other day, bowling more than we intended. But I think we’re nearly there. He’s had no pain in five days now. So if that continues, there’s a chance he could bowl ten overs.”
Morgan also insisted England’s players were comfortable with the team’s security arrangements following the terrorist attack in London on Saturday night that took place close to the hotel at Tower Bridge where the team were staying.
Players have been given individual briefings by Reg Dickason, the England team’s head of security, and Morgan said: “The guys are chatting about it constantly because it’s not very far from where we stayed. And obviously a lot of us live near to where it happened. So we’re always constantly talking about it, making sure everybody feels that they can talk about it and not necessarily hide away from it. But certainly within our team there’s no concerns.”
England: Alex Hales, Jason Roy, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan (captain), Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler (wicketkeeper), Moeen Ali, David Willey, Liam Plunkett, Mark Wood, Steven Finn.
New Zealand: Martin Guptill, Luke Ronchi (wicketkeeper), Kane Williamson (captain), Ross Taylor, Corey Anderson, Neil Broom, Jimmy Neesham, Mitchell Santner, Adam Milne, Tim Southee, Trent Boult.Reuse content